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Devils complete deal to sign top free agent Dougie Hamilton

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Dougie Hamilton will anchor the Devils blueline. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Devils landed the prize of the 2021 free agent class in Dougie Hamilton. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dougie Hamilton has closed the show.

The New Jersey Devils have signed the No. 1 defenseman of the 2021 free agent class, brokering a seven-year, $63-million contract with the former Carolina Hurricanes standout.

It's the most expensive deal of the day, working out to $9 million annually. With it, Hamilton matches recent signee Cale Makar in per-season dollar value, while trailing behind Seth Jones only slightly following his big-money pact with the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Hamilton, 28, emerged as one of the top right-shot defenders in the league since his trade to Carolina from the Calgary Flames in 2017. Hamilton leads all defensemen in goals over the last four seasons, adding 10 to his total last season while finishing with 42 points in 55 games. 

Fourth in Norris Trophy voting last season, Hamilton has also made a habit of posting elite-level underlying numbers. This included an impressive 56.5 percent expected goals percentage, which happens to be the worst mark over his last four seasons. 

Hamilton checks just about every box in terms of No. 1 defensemen and appears to have taken his opportunity to jump to the highest bidder. New Jersey is presumably several years away from competing in the playoffs despite the Hamilton add, though he should help expedite the process as a top-level defender in his prime.

New Jersey also brought in Ryan Graves this offseason in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, and it's possible that Hamilton pairs with him to form the No. 1 option for head coach Lindy Ruff.

Notably, Hamilton isn't the highest-paid defender on the New Jersey roster. His $9-million salary matches P.K. Subban, who has one season remaining on his current deal. 

Subban will come off the books next summer, carving out another slab of money to throw at the incoming free agent class.

Losing Hamilton is certainly a blow to the Hurricanes, but not one they weren't prepared for. Hurricanes GM Don Waddell has been busy adding to the defensive core, acquiring Ian Cole and Ethan Bear through free agency and trade, respectively. 

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